The Behaviour of Moths (The Sister) – Poppy Adams

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The Behaviour of Moths is called The Sister in America, and I can see why there are two different titles, as there are two distinctive stories in the book. The first is the story of Ginny, an elderly lady who is reunited with her sister after 47 years apart. They struggle to revive their friendship, as we slowly learn the events which led to their separation all those years ago.

The story of the sisters is woven with Ginny’s fascination with her father’s work as a leading lepidoptorist, studying moth behaviour. I found the descriptions of moths completely fascinating. I never realised there was so much to learn about them. I found this particularly interesting:

“If you cut through a cocoon in mid-winter, a thick creamy liquid would spill out and nothing more. What goes into that cocoon in autumn is a caterpillar and what comes out in spring is entirely different: a moth, complete with papery wings, hair-like legs, and antennae. Yet this same creature spends winter as a grey-green liquid, a primordial soup.”

Poppy Adams clearly loves the natural world, and I hope she writes more about animal life in the future, as I think this is where her talents lie.

It’s not the best story in the world, but it is reasonably entertaining. I recommend you read it for the moth facts alone!


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  1. Jackie says:

    I did manage to squeeze a 12th book into February after all!

  2. Nymeth says:

    I’ve seen several reviews of this around. It sounds interesting and I love a good Gothic story, but my fear of moths makes me reluctant.

  3. Jackie says:

    Nymeth – Interesting dilema! I’m not really sure if this book would be bad if you’re frightened of moths. Did the quote bother you? Reading it might make you see moths in a whole new light. It is mainly really interesting facts about them, rather than descriptions of them flying round in the wild. I’d love you to read it and for you to come to love them!

  4. Sandy says:

    I have a weird feeling about moths, ever since I saw “Silence of the Lambs”. I could probably get past it, but it would always be in my head!

  5. Jackie says:

    Sandy – I’ve never seen ‘Silence of the Lambs’ – I’m missing out on a lot of the classic films aren’t I?! I think you’d benefit from this, as you’d get a new respect for them. They are amazing insects!

  6. Nymeth says:

    I hate how horribly squeamish this makes me sound, but it did bother me a bit :P I don’t know why they creep me out, but they really do. But you know, I’d love to change my mind.

  7. Simon S says:

    This sounds wonderful. I am going to get this as soon as it comes out in paperback! Thanks for the recommendation, I have ummmed and ahhhhed over this one in the shops before and now know should get it.

  8. raidergirl3 says:

    I just finished The Sister and quite enjoyed it. I was more fascinated by the sister, Virginia. Once I realized something was off with her, I enjoyed reading her narrative and trying to figure out what really happened. I think she was meant to have Asperger’s or some form of autism. The doctor teaching her to read emotions from pictures of people, the fixation on moth and insistence of time being right, her small comfortable routine – what do you think? It also explains her logical thinking and her lack of emotion.
    Have you read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time? She wasn’t quite that extreme though.
    I would have liked to learn more from the other sister’s point of view. It didn’t fit in the story, but it would make a good companion story.

    sorry for babbling on so much, I think I was trying to organize my thoughts about the book.

  9. Jackie says:

    raidergirl3 – Yes, I guess she did have some kind of autism. I have read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time – I really enjoyed it, but as you say that was a lot more severe. I’m afraid I don’t really know enough about these kinds of conditions to make a better judgement, but I’m pleased you enjoyed it and I look forward to reading your review.

  10. I really liked this book – the autism thing was definitely on my mind throughout too – especially the way that Ginny struggles to read faces. I thought that the amount of detail about the moths was a bit excessive though. Definitely worth a read, however!

    1. Jackie says:

      LiteraryKitty, Thank you for commenting on my blog for the first time! I’m pleased to hear that you enjoyed this book, but I thought the moths were the best bit! I’m glad that not a single fact was missed out!

  11. Olivia Levez says:

    We read this book for Baps, our book group, and it divided opinion. What starts as a gentle story of rebuilding a relationship between two sisters becomes Gothic and disturbing, especially after That Scene, which took us all by surprise. Loved all the intricate details about moth-lore, and yes, the narrator is definitely unreliable and possibly Asperger’s, which makes her voice all the more compelling. As well as The Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, have you read Smart, a recent YA book by Kim Slater (short-listed for Waterstones) which also is told from the POV of autistic narrator. And on a completely different note/genre – but insect-related – The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd! Could insect-related books be a new genre?!


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